Bohr and Heisenberg : Plasma-Ten

No one knows for sure what transpired when German physicist Werner Heisenberg met with his Jewish Danish counterpart, Niels Bohr, in Copenhagen — the event became the stuff of modern scientific mythology. Director Howard Davies puts his spin on the momentous meeting that occurred one night in September 1941, during which the longtime friends entered into a dangerous discussion about physics and politics.

Justwatch on Copenhagen (2002)

I just saw the 2002 film Copenhagen for the first time(s) which I happened to catch streaming on Prime Video. Here is a link to the film’s page on JustWatch to see where it is available now.
The story considers Heisenberg’s visit to Bohr in 1941 occupied Copenhagen. I hadn’t studied this event before, but it is really fascinating and I think well done. The narrative was originally a play for three actors and the film is true to that intense dialog format with shifting perspectives.

Copenhagen - Rotten Tomatoes

Here is a great description of the context and broad storylines. Here is another. I imagine there are plenty of detailed books about this subject as well.

I saw the play when it went near UNH where Werner Heisenberg’s son, Jochen Heisenberg, was a physics professor (now emeritus) and he was invited to give a few thoughts about it at the end of the play.

Mostly he emphasized that his father stayed in Germany because he was a big proponent of German physics for reasons of national pride (as the reason he didn’t leave) and also had a long-running fear of the Nazis persecuting him for doing Jewish physics (waking up with nightmares decades later according to his mother).


That is a really powerful story and history. I hope that Heisenberg family web site is preserved somewhere, it must be fascinating. After my third watching of the movie I was leaning to the interpretation that Heisenberg was a compassionate person who was managing the science and technology towards good and away from evil. I look forward to researching the history available on Heisenberg!

Werner Heisenberg came to his first Lindau meeting with a very interesting and topical physics lecture about elementary particles. The full lecture can be read in a transcription of a set of short hand notes taken (on July 2 at 3 pm, 1953) by a Munch PhD named Winfried Petri.

The first part describes the development of the theory of atoms and elementary particles, starting with the Greeks and leading up to the Rutherford-Bohr atom of 1912, Heisenberg-Schrödinger quantum mechanics of the late 1920’s and the quantum electrodynamics first formulated by Paul Dirac in the 1930’s. But Heisenberg’s talk is far from being only a historical overview.

In a quite remarkable way he manages, without any equations, to describe his own ongoing attempts to formulate a unified theory of elementary particles. In his theoretical framework, energy is the main parameter and can under suitable circumstances give rise to any particle. Then quantum electrodynamics, which is a theory of the interaction of electrons, positrons and photons, becomes a theory that can be separated out to hold for low enough energies only. For higher energies, where heavier particles can be produced, the theory fails.

In the second part of the lecture, Heisenberg brings his discussion to his own 1953 research frontier. Interestingly enough, he returned to the physics meetings in Lindau to lecture on updates of the same theme, a unified theory of elementary particles, in 1956, 1959 and 1962. In order to distinguish between several possible theories, Heisenberg in his 1953 lecture makes a plea for much more experimental data. He mentions that high-energy collisions can be studied in balloon experiments using cosmic rays or in man-made accelerators.

It is an extra bonus that at the end of his lecture, Heisenberg mentions that on July 1, 1953, i.e. the day before his lecture, an agreement among European countries to build an atomic physics institute in Geneva was signed in Paris. We know today, of course, that this “atomic physics institute” became CERN, the world leading laboratory today for high energy physics!

Note — this is fascinating. I love that adventurous spirit in physics! Don’t all physicists feel like they are right on top of the solution or through a looking glass? I need to read these lectures if I can find them! I googled for quite some time without finding nary a book nor a video in English or at least with an English transcription. I’ll keep an eye out for more information on this during my future endeavors!

p.s., I was watching this video on a flight from San Diego to Nashville and have a wonderful conversation with my seat mate who had also recently watched this movie. I gave them a tour of the point charge periodic table of the standard model (shown below) and they immediately picked up on it and we had a lively discussion of the implications that branched asynchronously and non-linearly. My favourite kind of conversation. It was very refreshing for me to meet someone so bright and intelligent and find myself to be at ease conversing. Lots of fun!

A bit of Vonnegut inspiried science fiction musing :

If you are not already aware, here is background on the concept of ice-nine and you can read more from Joanna Thompson here.

Novel Science: What’s cooler than being cool? Ice-nine.

Some say the world will end in fire/Some say in ice,” wrote Robert Frost in 1920.

Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 masterpiece Cat’s Cradle is about the latter.

Is Vonnegut’s world-ending ice based on actual science? In a word, somewhat.

The Fiction:

In Cat’s Cradle, life on Earth is destroyed when a substance called ice-nine falls into the ocean. Vonnegut’s ice-nine is a form of water that remains solid at room temperature; it won’t melt until it reaches at least 114.4 degrees Fahrenheit. It also has the unfortunate property of snapping any water molecules it touches into the ice-nine configuration. Once introduced to the biosphere, it sparks an unstoppable chain reaction that turns all liquid water in the world into ice-nine.

Joanna Thompson

The evening’s biggest scientific celebrity was theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek, winner of a 2004 Nobel Prize in physics. His story began with a phone call. The editors of Scientific American were hoping he would write a rebuttal to a letter they’d just received. “The letter was from a man who I later learned was a banana farmer in Hawaii,” Wilczek recalled. “He was worried about black holes. He was worried about a particle accelerator that was being built on Long Island that could produce black holes, and he was worried that the black holes would swallow up Long Island and then the world.” Wilczek happily wrote a response to defend the honor of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Lab. He noted that even if RHIC did create black holes, they’d be smaller than atomic nuclei and therefore would have such feeble gravity that “they wouldn’t be good at swallowing up anything.” He also explained that the type of particle collisions that would take place at RHIC occur naturally on Earth when cosmic rays bombard our planet–and we’re still here.

But Wilczek felt that his response was boring, and decided to spice it up a bit by mentioning “strangelets,” hypothetical particles that he said could be produced by the RHIC, and which could pose more of a threat to life, the universe, and everything. Imagine strangelets as the ice-nine from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle, Wilczek said; crystals of that fictional substance turned all liquid water they came into contact with into solid ice-nine, creating a chain reaction. Strangelets could have a similar warping effect on “all nuclear matter,” said Wilczek, “which would not be good.” However, Wilczek finished his response by explaining why the doomsday strangelet scenario was “not plausible,” and happily went off on vacation.

He thought no more of it until his brother-in-law arrived at Wilczek’s isolated vacation home bearing tales of a worldwide media panic over RHIC. One article from The Sunday Times of London ran under the banner headline, “Big Bang Machine Could Destroy Earth,” and prominently asked in a caption whether the RHIC would be “The Final Experiment?” At least the story had a happy ending. Wilczek spent the next two weeks trekking to a payphone near his vacation home to explain to journalists why RHIC wouldn’t kill us all. The particle collider was completed and turned on, and its findings helped Wilczek win that Nobel. And most importantly, the nuclear matter that makes up my body is feeling no stranger than usual

World Science Festival: Telling Scary Stories of Strangelets

By Eliza Strickland

As background, the reader should be aware that physicists are trying to create new ‘particles’ (structures) in their course of research and experimentation. Electrons, quarks, and neutrinos each have one Noether core. Protons and Neutrons have three Noether cores. Recently I read of a new penta-quark (5 quark) structure created by scientists. Imagine that. What the heck is a particle with 5 Noether cores? I keep imagining the duality with Space X and the number of engines. Can you imagine a Falcon Ultra Heavy with 5 rocket engines? I guess I can, but I hope we have better technology before it comes to that!

Like the movie discussed above, many of the histories of physics and physicists in the 1900 — 1970ish period also discuss the various suffering, consternation, and chronic angst felt by the physicists. There is no doubt that physicists were under many pressures given the prevailing circumstances, many of which were political and focused on high energy physics. I wonder the degree to which those external and internal pressures influenced interpretations and perhaps caused one or more interpretational priors to be off kilter.

Could physicists unwittingly create some sort of ice-nine like substance that replicates throughout space-time and all matter-energy? A structure that wouldn’t otherwise occur naturally? Let’s imagine the case where Frank Wilczek idea of an ice-nine-ish substance that could sweep through the universe consuming all spacetime aether and matter-energy was possible EXCEPT that it happens at high enough energy and the chain reaction opens up each particle’s shielded energy like a can opener?

Figuring out how to freeze or blow up a moon, planet, or star in chain reaction would be a big deal for residents of that solar system, but the devastation wouldn’t travel far in Einstein’s spacetime geometry. Free spacetime is generally very lightly populated with standard matter particles in terms of the point charge density. It’s mostly neutrinos, photons, and the occasional Hydrogen. Spacetime is not given a reactive role. Therefore, the reaction would peter out and may not even make it to the nearest orbs. Isn’t that fascinating. Of course, Vonnegut was focused on Earth, so his scenario is still intact.

Realization of free space in outer space
In the partial vacuum of outer space in our galaxy there are small quantities of matter which is mostly hydrogen and some cosmic dust and cosmic noise. The density of hydrogen is about one atom per cm3. There is also a cosmic microwave background with a temperature of 2.725 K, which implies a photon density of about 400 photons per cm3
. (edited for brevity)

Interestingly each photon has 12 point charges, while a proton has 36 and and electron has 12 point charges. So four-hundred photons is a heck of a lot more point charges than one hydrogen atom. Plus there are the neutrinos and who knows what else flowing through? And the buried lede is that space is dominated in density by the point charges in spacetime aether. Truly dominated. The aether flows through us and everything we see.

I also wonder if interpretations have been obfuscated much like the potential subterfuge discussed in the movie. I always think large conspiracies are unlikely to go undetected for long, but small conspiracies of a single individual, or with decreasing likelihood a couplet, or thruplet (?), etc. It is human nature to write a diary or history or confess on a death bed or confide in others. For a conspiracy to be unrevealed for a century would require a very small circle of conspirators to begin with, in my opinion.

The Solvay Conference in October 1927
1927 Solvay Conference Attendees
University of Copenhagen

Could there have been a conspiracy between some highly influential subset of the 1927 Solvay Conference aka well known as Copenhagen in the physics community? I don’t know, but I always think small when it comes to conspiratorial pacts. Is it possible that even by 1927 the leading physicists had discovered the point charge fundamentals of nature and were so terrified that they created a subterfuge to divert others from this level of knowledge? Any pact would have to start with Mileva and Albert Einstein, wouldn’t it? I mean general relativity as a geometry has proven to be a profoundly accurate obfuscation. Was it intentional? Did Mileva and Albert enlist a few more in the subterfuge? Bohr? Heisenberg? Where would you draw the circle? Who knew? Did they realize only the potential of fission and fusion reactions which could be harnessed for good or evil? Or did they know more, did the scientists of the 1900-1950 era realize that all matter-energy and spacetime aether itself contains shielded energy magnitudes greater than what is presented as apparent energy i.e., mass?

It’s fascinating to have these flights of fancy and imagine the conditions where a very small group collaborated in absolute secret to divert science for as long as possible. I can’t rule out the possibility, but I’m skeptical. We’ll have to leave this in the capable hands of physics historians.

Quantum physicists assign the vacuum many roles but interestingly consider Einstein’s spacetime to be a separate and orthogonal theory. However, in NPQG we learn that physicists had false priors that led them astray. Now we know that spacetime and the vacuum are one and the same and they are what we call dark matter which is infused with dark energy and it is essentially an aether of old tired photons and neutrinos and the structures they form, most likely a group of four Noether cores, two of which are anti. With certain input reactants and conditions these spacetime aether particles can easily reconfigure into the particle and antiparticle of any fermion.

Perhaps 13.8B years is the cycle time this generation of the game, until intelligent life learns the secrets of the universe and how to manipulate nature in catastrophic ways. Akin to Wilczek’s ice-nine-ish mode? Universally catastrophic, to the point where the blast is not impeded by low energy space-time and the speed of light. Hmm, shockingly, that sort of fits the big bang inflation model, and especially the idea that enormous UMBH would leave their imprint on the next generation. Wow. I dunno if I buy into it, but might be worth thinking upon more. Also, if that can happen, it will happen, it is just a matter of time. We would never see it coming since it may well move faster than the speed of light because it is a Planck plasma of point charges.

Out of that emergence we would get a repeating Big Bang but based upon emergence leading to the intelligence that unlocks the secrets of nature that lead to the next cycle. Sounds like really good science fiction! Yet it matches the description of the Big Bang and Inflation quite well as I understand them. Argghh, I hope I have taken my creativity and problem solving ability a little too far off the deep end on Plasma-Ten.

J Mark Morris : Boston : Massachusetts